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ink wench
07-26-2010, 04:20 PM
I tried to teach myself guitar many years ago, but I just didn't have the patience for it, alas.

The MC in my novel has been playing for about three years (she's going on age 18, fwiw). She was taught by a very talented friend who also helped her pick out decent instruments (acoustic and electric). Money is no object for this MC, but I want her choices to be realistic given her age and experience. So a few questions...

1. What would be a good acoustic for her? Good electric?

2. The acoustic will hold a special place in her heart, and I envision her referring to it by a nickname. But is there a particular way she'd refer to the electric? Like would she just call it her Strat?

3. She also knows how to play piano and can read music, but for the majority of the story she's on vacation and just has the acoustic with her. Is it realistic these days for her to write songs just by jotting down the chords in a notebook?

Thanks!

Drachen Jager
07-26-2010, 07:23 PM
I don't know much about guitars, but I know a Stratocaster (Strat) is a model, Fender is the make.

ink wench
07-26-2010, 07:35 PM
I don't know much about guitars, but I know a Stratocaster (Strat) is a model, Fender is the make.It's what happens when you post pre-coffee. :)

waylander
07-26-2010, 08:18 PM
If money is no object then I believe these are good guitars
http://www.martinguitar.com/

I'm sure an expert will be along in a minute

benbradley
07-26-2010, 09:26 PM
Yes, Martins are good acoustics, you can get a new one from starting around $500, which is actually pretty cheap for a decent acoustic. Martin is surely the most popular brand (at least of acoustics), the company has made and sold over a million guitars. But the price goes up depending on what wood is used and how much inlay (the expensive glistening pearl stuff that looks so flashy) a guitar has, easily pushing the price into thousands of dollars, even over $10,000. Other "decent" mass-produced brands are Guild and Gibson, but there are newer brands that have become popular in recent decades, especially Taylor (http://www.taylorguitars.com/).

There are many one-man businesses which make hand-made (acoustic) guitars. These cost more, often starting at several thousand dollars for the most basic models, but they're desirable for anyone who wants to be something other than "just another singer-songwriter playing a Martin." Olson is one of the better known - James Taylor and Paul McCartney play his guitars:
http://olsonguitars.com
I know a local guy Atlanta (well I actually haven't talked to him since I took a couple of his one-day guitarmaking classes ten years ago) Kent Everett whose guitars are played by Don Conoscenti and one of the Indigo Girls:
http://www.everettguitars.com/

Electrics are almost a different world, but good ones also start at roughly $500. I already wrote about electrics here:
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=141900

alleycat
07-26-2010, 09:37 PM
Yes, on the Martin for an acoustic if price is no object.

For the electric, a Gibson Les Paul. I might be prejudiced since Gibsons are made right here in Nashville.

Hallen
07-26-2010, 10:46 PM
Typically, if somebody is pretty good, knows the scales, knows chord progressions, and has a good ear, they aren't even gong to need to jot down the chords. They'll remember as they go.

But, yes, if they want to share it with others, or insure they don't forget a particular sequence that they want, they can just jot down the chord names as they go. Bm, F#, A, E, G, D. Em and so on.

Some use a notation called Tabs that is a system for people who can't read music. However, if the character can read music, there's no reason to not just put the correct notation down as it's easy enough to get pre-lined paper or to draw it out yourself. Real music sheets show not only the notes, but the timing and rhythms for a piece which are just as important on a guitar as they are on a piano. Chords and Tabs give no real indication of timing and rhythm.

There's a million different guitar types out there and it depends on the player what they'll find important. I have an old, cheap classical guitar that I bought from a friend almost 30 years ago for $20 that sounds and plays better than many new and expensive classical guitars. That particular instrument has become a treasure to me simply because of its history. (classical guitars are acoustic but use nylon strings instead of steel string and usually have a different neck/fretting design.)

Yes, electric guitars can have just as much meaning and personal endearment as acoustic guitars. It all depends on the person. There are also acoustic/electric combos.

ink wench
07-27-2010, 04:33 AM
Thanks, everyone! Lots to look through here. :)

poetinahat
07-27-2010, 04:52 AM
There are lots of guitar forums and guitar review sites, and places like about.com have very good articles on choosing a beginner's guitar - or choosing by various price ranges. I've spent a fair bit of time going through these sites recently, having bought two guitars in the past year. My links are at home; I'll dig them out tonight.

I wouldn't imagine that a 17-year-old wouldn't have a Martin as her first guitar -- unless her parents were used to just throwing money at her, or maybe if she really were talented in another instrument. A Martin's a pretty expensive toy for someone who's not committed. And do we assume the MC is not playing classical - i.e. will have a steel-string guitar?

The electric world, at least for solidbodies, is largely divided into two camps: Fender (Stratocaster, the Jimi Hendrix guitar, and Telecaster, the Keith Richards guitar), and Gibson (Les Paul, the Jimmy Page/Allman Bros guitar, and ES-55, the Angus Young/John Mayall guitar). These would be popular for rock or blues musicians. There's a great documentary on the history here; it's called Solidbodies: The Fifty-Year Guitar War, or something like that. It gives a lot of insight into the technical differences, the sounds, the history of the two guitar designs and the companies - for example, why Fenders have single-coil pickups and Gibsons have humbuckers, and what that means for the sound. Stuff that musicians would be way into.

Jazz, blues and country players might use a hollowbody or semi-hollow body, like the Gibson ES-355 (like George Harrison and B.B. King play) .

The company websites are usually only too happy to point out how many famous guitarists use their models.

Other things affect the costs - for example, a US-made Stratocaster will cost more than a Mexican-made Strat (both made by *Fender*). Epiphone makes very similar models to any Gibson, but are less expensive. So beginners set on, say, a Les Paul, may go for an Epiphone Les Paul instead. (Professional players will also use Epiphones; they're not just for beginners.)

Oh, yeah, and if you've got an electric or an acoustic-electric (acoustic with on-board pickup/equalizer and maybe a tuner), the choice of amp will also be important. Amps can run into the thousands, so a beginner would likely have a small, cheap one.

Chords: Keep in mind that different music styles have different chords common to them (as a baseline only - there are no real rules); for example, blues uses minors and 7ths, rock uses major, sustained, and power chords, and jazz uses major 7ths, diminished chords, and all sorts of strange concoctions.. I'm not sure how far songwriters go with using tabs to write original songs, or if they often just write the chords. I use tabs to transcribe existing songs I want to learn to play, though, and there are several good sites to download free guitar tabs, if you want to see examples. (Tip: Since they're free and shared, they're often not completely correct, but they're a great learning tool or start-off point.)

This is a problem you'll find: guitar people love to talk about guitars, even if they don't know much about them. :o

ink wench
07-27-2010, 05:13 AM
Thanks, Poet! Very helpful!

To respond to a few things. No, she's not playing classical so she'll have a steel-string guitar. While she has money (or her parents do), she's also very practical, so I don't think she'd be splurging right out the gate. (Although she is dedicated and might be pining for something nicer than she currently owns.)

My song-writing friends in college used to just write down the chords so they wouldn't forget, but I wasn't sure if there weren't more computer-reliant methods these days.

Am wishing I had my mom's old guitar to play around on now, heh. Unfortunately, my brother took it far away.

Shadow_Ferret
07-27-2010, 05:22 AM
For acoustic, the aforementioned Martin, but also Washburn, Taylor, Takamine, and I'm partial to Ibanez.

For electric, you can go with either Fender or Gibson, they're both top quality American guitars, the Fender Strat and Gibson Les Paul are absolutely iconic. There are other makers like Guild, Gretsch, and again, Ibanez.

Personally, if you want something that is just gorgeous, take a look at Paul Reed Smith (http://www.prsguitars.com/).

HMS
07-27-2010, 07:06 AM
For a really gorgeous but wild looking guitar, check this one out.

http://www.klepperguitars.com/dm2.html

kuwisdelu
07-27-2010, 07:18 AM
If money were no object, I'd go with a Babicz for an acoustic and a PRS custom for the electric.

For the song writing, it really depends what kind of song.... if it's nothing but chords, it's certainly possible just to write chords down. But if the guitar plays the melody, she'll either write down the music or tabs, depending whichever she's more comfortable with. I can read music, but generally write the tabs for guitar parts if I'm just writing for myself since it's easier.

kuwisdelu
07-27-2010, 07:19 AM
The electric world, at least for solidbodies, is largely divided into two camps: Fender (Stratocaster, the Jimi Hendrix guitar, and Telecaster, the Keith Richards guitar), and Gibson (Les Paul, the Jimmy Page/Allman Bros guitar, and ES-55, the Angus Young/John Mayall guitar).

You dare mention the Strat without mentioning David Gilmour?? Heresy!!

benbradley
07-27-2010, 08:57 AM
...Other things affect the costs - for example, a US-made Stratocaster will cost more than a Mexican-made Strat (both made by GibsonCRINGE....

he knows better than that, surely he does...

). Epiphone makes very similar models to any Gibson, but are less expensive. So beginners set on, say, a Les Paul, may go for an Epiphone Les Paul instead. (Professional players will also use Epiphones; they're not just for beginners.)

Oh, yeah, and if you've got an electric or an acoustic-electric (acoustic with on-board pickup/equalizer and maybe a tuner), the choice of amp will also be important. Amps can run into the thousands, so a beginner would likely have a small, cheap one.

Chords: Keep in mind that different music styles have different chords common to them (as a baseline only - there are no real rules); for example, blues uses minors and 7ths, rock uses major, sustained, and power chords, and jazz uses major 7ths, diminished chords, and all sorts of strange concoctions.. I'm not sure how far songwriters go with using tabs to write original songs, or if they often just write the chords. I use tabs to transcribe existing songs I want to learn to play, though, and there are several good sites to download free guitar tabs, if you want to see examples. (Tip: Since they're free and shared, they're often not completely correct, but they're a great learning tool or start-off point.)

This is a problem you'll find: guitar people love to talk about guitars, even if they don't know much about them. :o
If you want to see "Real Songwriters At Work" there's a site with a challenge thing going on, it's:
http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/

I don't know anyone who uses tab though I stumble on a lot of it on the Web. For writing a song one often writes lyrics in a word processor, often with chords, but for melody it's just running Pro Tools (or if you're poor, Audacity - these are multitrack rcording software packages that run on the PC and/or MAC) and pushing the red button, and you're off recording on your computer. People can then play it back (after you've encoded it to mp3 and put it on the Web for others to download) and hear you sing/play the song/melody.


Thanks, Poet! Very helpful!

To respond to a few things. No, she's not playing classical so she'll have a steel-string guitar. While she has money (or her parents do), she's also very practical, so I don't think she'd be splurging right out the gate. (Although she is dedicated and might be pining for something nicer than she currently owns.)
I can imagine her getting a $200 "cheapie" to start, but from what you said in the OP, with three years of lessons behind her and about to turn 18, she's surely EXPECTING to get a Martin real soon...

You dare mention the Strat without mentioning David Gilmour?? Heresy!!
And tons of others. The Doobie Brothers song "Long Train Running (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5e3M6v-rCQ)" has that "strat sound" in the rhythm guitar lick going all the way through it.

This particular Strat has more mojo than anything else I've heard of:
http://www.dweezilzappaworld.com/articles/10-the-jimi-hendrix-frank-zappa-strat
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAX_YMFcXDs

poetinahat
07-27-2010, 11:37 AM
You dare mention the Strat without mentioning David Gilmour?? Heresy!!
Hey, I forgot Stevie Ray Vaughn as well, but there's only so much time!

waylander
07-27-2010, 01:16 PM
Just a note from a guitarist mate of mine - it is easier to learn to play on a good guitar.

poetinahat
07-27-2010, 02:04 PM
CRINGE....

he knows better than that, surely he does...

Ouch. Brain snap! What have I said?!!

er, fixing the post now.

ink wench
07-27-2010, 04:22 PM
:Hail: You guys are awesome. Thank you!! Not only might I be figuring this out, but some of the details in here are helping me spin more threads for the story.


Ouch. Brain snap! What have I said?!!

er, fixing the post now.lol! I had caught that. ;)

Shadow_Ferret
07-27-2010, 05:45 PM
...and Gibson (...and ES-55, the Angus Young/....

I thought Angus Young was closely associated with a Gibson SG?

Others who've used SGs are Tony Iommi, Robby Krieger of The Doors, Frank Zappa, Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers, Frank Marino, Eric Clapton while with Cream, Daron Malakian of System of a Down, Mick Box of Uriah Heep, and Pete Townsend... to name a few.



I don't know anyone who uses tab though I stumble on a lot of it on the Web. For writing a song one often writes lyrics in a word processor, often with chords, but for melody it's just running Pro Tools (or if you're poor, Audacity - these are multitrack rcording software packages that run on the PC and/or MAC) and pushing the red button, and you're off recording on your computer. People can then play it back (after you've encoded it to mp3 and put it on the Web for others to download) and hear you sing/play the song/melody.

I wonder how Jeff Beck wrote music, if not with tab? I remember reading he couldn't read music, and that was long before all these programs ever existed.

Hallen
07-28-2010, 01:00 AM
I thought Angus Young was closely associated with a Gibson SG?

Others who've used SGs are Tony Iommi, Robby Krieger of The Doors, Frank Zappa, Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers, Frank Marino, Eric Clapton while with Cream, Daron Malakian of System of a Down, Mick Box of Uriah Heep, and Pete Townsend... to name a few.


I wonder how Jeff Beck wrote music, if not with tab? I remember reading he couldn't read music, and that was long before all these programs ever existed.

The guitar is a unique instrument. You can learn to play reasonably well with no musical training at all. You just learn the chord shapes and a few scales, and you're off and running.

I know a lot of people who can't read music, but can figure out what scale a song is in, then figure out the progressions and then figure out the melodies. They will write music just the same. I doubt you could do that on the piano without some training and being able to read music.

Anyway, there are iPhone apps out there that listen to a note and show you how far off from tune you are ( an iPhone electronic tuner). I suppose there are also PC tools that can distinguish chords when you play them and write them down for you. It isn't much of a leap to have something like that in a novel if you wanted to.

Disclaimer: I'm just a hack on the guitar with no music training at all. I can play the chords, but not the music. :D

poetinahat
07-28-2010, 05:06 AM
I thought Angus Young was closely associated with a Gibson SG?


:rant: I'm all over the shop with typos these days! Jeez.
I hate lettersfornames; why can't they call it, say, the Gibson 'Shadow Ferret'?

Hmmm. Actually, that would be a righteous name for a guitar...

benbradley
07-28-2010, 05:42 AM
I wonder how Jeff Beck wrote music, if not with tab? I remember reading he couldn't read music, and that was long before all these programs ever existed.
Way back in the Dark Ages, before Pro Tools, people recorded on these funky, obsolete devices called tape recorders. And even before then, or for those who couldn't afford tape recorders, those who learned to play by ear and wrote their own songs memorized the melodies and chords as well as the words. It's actually a lot easier for me to remember a melody and chords than lyrics.

The guitar is a unique instrument. You can learn to play reasonably well with no musical training at all. You just learn the chord shapes and a few scales, and you're off and running.
I don't know that the guitar is unique in that sense. I've heard that Elton John doesn't read music and learned piano by ear. He's been off and running for a while now. There are a few more "chord shapes" on the piano, but it's just more learning...

Billy Joel has had serious classical music training, but look who's had more hit songs...


I know a lot of people who can't read music, but can figure out what scale a song is in, then figure out the progressions and then figure out the melodies. They will write music just the same. I doubt you could do that on the piano without some training and being able to read music.
woops, what did I just say...


Anyway, there are iPhone apps out there that listen to a note and show you how far off from tune you are ( an iPhone electronic tuner). I suppose there are also PC tools that can distinguish chords when you play them and write them down for you. It isn't much of a leap to have something like that in a novel if you wanted to.

Disclaimer: I'm just a hack on the guitar with no music training at all. I can play the chords, but not the music. :D
Distinguishing chords is harder because it's hard for the program to tell a harmonic from a separate note. That's sort of the holy grail, a computer program that scans a recorded song and spits out a MIDI file, which is easily loaded into a sheet music program and printed out.

And there supposedly an iPhone app that CORRECTs your notes too, just like the real Autotune, AKA the "Cher Effect" that's become so popular and overdone in Rap/R&B.

kuwisdelu
07-28-2010, 05:54 AM
Most instruments used in rock can be learned without any musical training, since they're all pretty intuitive. It's pretty easy to understand how frets and keyboard layouts relate to the notes they play. And drums don't generally have notes at all unless we're talking timpani. With more classical instruments like woodwinds and brass, the relationship between the notes and the fingering that makes them isn't so obvious.

Gugland
07-28-2010, 08:16 AM
Yeah, Martin would be good for an acoustic. But (and I'm not trying to write your story here) if the acoustic will hold a "special place in her heart", would that be because of where she got it (a dead uncle's shed, from a nice woman at a garage sale, etc, ??).

As for electrics there are of course Strats & Les Pauls, but your MC is going on 18, so I would think she'd be pretty style-conscious...so maybe check out Gretsch, Mosrite and Vox guitars. Also, Fender made some pretty cool electrics aside from the Stratocaster and Telecaster, but the names elude me atm.

poetinahat
07-28-2010, 08:29 AM
*sorry for clogging up the thread; I can split off the side discussion if it's getting to be a distraction*

And, if she's a fan of REM or the Smiths, Rickenbackers are cool.

Watching the acts that appear on Later with Jools (probably episodes that are a year or two old), it looks to me like the Telecaster is very in right now - as are hollowbodies like the Gibson ES355 or Gretsch and Guild guitars.

Gretsch are big for rockabilly too; Brian Setzer and Rev. Horton Heat both have Gretsch signature models.

Gugland
07-28-2010, 08:38 AM
You could always Google around and find a pic of the guitar you want to use. I'm sure the experts here could identify it.

benbradley
07-28-2010, 10:35 AM
She MUST have this:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000HWW49G/ref=dp_image_text_0?ie=UTF8&n=11091801&s=musical-instruments
And here's Mr.Emo to demonstrate it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ8qcpvaHXw

ink wench
07-28-2010, 04:49 PM
Thanks again, everyone. I finished sketching out the details last night, and this was very helpful.


Anyway, there are iPhone apps out there that listen to a note and show you how far off from tune you are ( an iPhone electronic tuner). I suppose there are also PC tools that can distinguish chords when you play them and write them down for you. It isn't much of a leap to have something like that in a novel if you wanted to.


Distinguishing chords is harder because it's hard for the program to tell a harmonic from a separate note. That's sort of the holy grail, a computer program that scans a recorded song and spits out a MIDI file, which is easily loaded into a sheet music program and printed out.Very interesting. I can see why that would be a challenge.


Yeah, Martin would be good for an acoustic. But (and I'm not trying to write your story here) if the acoustic will hold a "special place in her heart", would that be because of where she got it (a dead uncle's shed, from a nice woman at a garage sale, etc, ??).It's special to her because of the person who helped her pick it out.


*sorry for clogging up the thread; I can split off the side discussion if it's getting to be a distraction*No problem! It's interesting to read.


She MUST have this:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000HWW49G/ref=dp_image_text_0?ie=UTF8&n=11091801&s=musical-instruments
And here's Mr.Emo to demonstrate it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ8qcpvaHXwlol!

poetinahat
07-29-2010, 04:25 AM
She MUST have this:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000HWW49G/ref=dp_image_text_0?ie=UTF8&n=11091801&s=musical-instruments
And here's Mr.Emo to demonstrate it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ8qcpvaHXw

As long as we're going there, she should check out this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNzgB6vQsZ0). Fab guitar, but that *hair*!

amacrae
12-28-2010, 06:04 AM
Probably far too late to chime in here, but for a 17 year old girl, a Seagull would be just right. Very good guitar but also very sweet and pretty looking with a tapered head.